Regions to the rescue
VICTORIA’S regional cities are accepting more “economic refugees” as homebuyers seek to escape Melbourne’s rising cost of real estate.
As debate rages on how to tackle housing affordability in Melbourne, planning minister Richard Wynne recently offered moving to a regional city as a solution.
Demographer Bernard Salt said population growth was lifting in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, and nearby smaller communities, partly due to Melbourne growing at nearrecord rates for the past three years.
“In some respects, it’s overspill — people not being able to afford what they want in the city are moving to a lifestyle area and commuting back or, in fact, changing jobs,” Mr Salt said.
Improved freeway and train links increases the prospects for people considering a move to the country, opening up areas beyond the cities, Mr Salt said.
Better internet access was sweetening the deal.
But it’s not only an economic choice, Mr Salt said.
“Life isn’t always about earning as much money as you possibly can. Some people would trade that down for a lesser-paid job, but (also) to a lesser mortgage and an increased quality of life that they would see in a better property in Geelong, or a goldera property in Ballarat.
“The more congested and more expensive central Melbourne becomes, it’s going to encourage more people to make the sensible choice of moving to regional Victoria.”
The movement also brings positive benefits for regional communities.
“They’re bringing new people, new spending, new ideas. They’re bringing their city sophistication with them,” Mr Salt said.
Buyers advocate Cate Bakos said lower regional city house prices meant buyers could climb up the property ladder without forgoing access to services they enjoyed in inner Melbourne, such as highperforming schools, a strong arts scene and foodie culture.
“They’re making the choice to get a beautiful period home in an area that boasts most things they have around them for what they’d normally spend on an apartment or a villa or townhouse,” Ms Bakos said.
“We’ve got first-home buyers who were able to buy their dream home in Geelong and just move right in and think about having their family.”
The 6 per cent annual growth in the median house price for the City of Greater Geelong matches the 5.5 per cent gain for greater Melbourne, but the $417,000 median is more than $160,000 cheaper than Melbourne’s $580,000. Prices are more steady in Ballarat and Bendigo, where the median price is low to mid $300,000s.
The commute is between 60 and 75 minutes by train from Geelong and Ballarat, respectively, but by car isn’t great, Ms Bakos said.
“You need to get up superearly or have flexible working hours to avoid that.”
Mark Whinfield, general manager of the Warralily estate at Armstrong Creek, said the lifestyle opportunities available close to Geelong and the beach were attracting a new wave of Melbourne buyers.
Mr Whinfield said the number of buyers from outside Geelong building new homes at Warralily had almost tripled in the past three years.
“Purchasers from outside Greater Geelong now represent a third of Warralily sales and we expect this trend to continue,” he said. “The lifestyle opportunity, including living in a new home in a neighbourhood that will offer everything ... holds high appeal for purchasers relocating from Melbourne.”